3D TV buying guide

If you love the special effects of 3D movies and the sensation of being part of the action, new TV technologies allow you to bring 3D into your home. Today's technology and effects go way beyond the cheesy blue and red glasses and grainy reception you may recall from the early days of 3D viewing. It also integrates the best high-definition, full-color technology to create an experience that rivals a theater. Here's a guide to help you understand 3D TVs and the features to consider if you decide to bring 3D viewing home.

What do I need to create a 3D experience at home?

Creating a 3D experience in your living room requires four individual components:

         A 3D-ready TV

         3D glasses

         A 3D source

         3D content

Let's take a closer look at each of these.

A 3D-ready TV: Many people assume that a 3D TV is actually a separate kind of television. In fact, it's a feature that's available on a "regular" TV. 3D compatibility is a feature that is added to high-end TVs, including plasmas, LEDs and LCDs. Think of 3D compatibility the same way as you would a feature such as internet access to stream video services or a special sound system. It's an upgrade that you look for and pay for in specific models. These TVs are still primarily 2D in nature and require the addition of accessories (explored below) to make the 3D experience possible.

3D glasses: 3D viewing technology requires that you wear glasses. The way 3D technology works is that it projects two images off the screen. One image is geared to your right eye and another to your left. When you put on the appropriate glasses, these images fuse and deliver that "off-the-screen" effect.

3D source and content: A 3D source is the piece of technology that actually connects to the TV. This is most commonly one of two things: a 3D-enabled Blu-Ray player or a 3D-compatible internet connection or video box. These then combine with the actual content in 3D, via a 3D-compatible Blu-Ray disc or a 3D channel. A 3D experience requires a functioning source, as well as content in order to work.

So now that I know how it works, is it worth it?

The core question about whether a 3D TV is a good investment for you is whether or not you truly enjoy the feature. If you've been a lifelong film buff and get excited about the chance to see a new film in 3D, it's certainly worth exploring. The quality of images is comparable to the theater experience, mitigated only by the size of your TV screen and how far away you're sitting. Since the feature is often included in high-end TVs you're considering already, the decision to purchase a 3D-ready TV may actually be less difficult than if you were buying a dedicated device.

What's the difference between active and passive 3D technology?

You may see references to both active and passive 3D technology. This refers largely to the technology that's used to produce the 3D effect. Mainly the difference is in the glasses; active 3D technology uses liquid crystal shutters that run on batteries. Passive 3D glasses use a polarizing effect that's similar to the glasses you wear at the movies. Active glasses are generally brand-specific to the TV that you're purchasing, while passive glasses can be used with any passive 3D TV. It's worth investigating which type of 3D technology you're considering by brand, and understanding the cost and options for glasses.

Content may be somewhat limited.

As you're evaluating whether or not 3D TV is for you, it's important to consider that this is a growing technology and market. The amount of content available, either via 3D channels or released on Blu-Ray discs, continues to grow, but not every film or show is released on 3D.

Television programming has yet to keep up with the trend; you won't find very many programs in 3D, but the number is growing. Surprisingly enough, the leader in 3D TV shows are sports, thanks to ESPN. Three-dimensional television brings the action to life, which is great when watching those final seconds of the big game. A 3D view of that half-court shot or Hail Mary pass can make you feel like you're there.

Of course, 3D movies have been extremely popular for the last few years, so your cinema options are relatively broad. Build up a library with dozens of discs to choose from.

Don't forget gaming! Video games have been ahead of the curve, with title after title being released in 3D. If you have a hardcore gamer in your house, a 3D television will let them experience a whole new level of play.

If you're ready to experience high quality 3D television in your home, Sears offers a wide selection of 3D-ready television brands to fit every style and budget.

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